Leadership Retreat: Private Sector advocates for Agricultural Bank

Farmers engage in rice threshing in the Rubona Marshland in Rusatira Sector, Huye District on Wednesday, December 17, 2015.

The Private Sector Federation (PSF), has called on leaders who will participate in the 14th National Leadership Retreat– ‘Umwiherero’ to devise means of setting up an Agricultural bank and as well as an agriculture insurance scheme to help farmers in case of drought.

The retreat will take place from February 25 to March 1, 2017 at Rwanda Defence Forces Combat Training Centre in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province.

PSF Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Ruzibiza, said that most of the pressing issues [in the private sector] had been addressed, citing the reduction of electricity and water tariffs as well as sourcing local products and services.

“Tariff on electricity and water has been reduced and Made-in-Rwanda campaign addresses the issue of local sourcing,” he said.

But, Ruzibiza said: “Considering that we are an agriculture based economy, something has to be done to have something like agriculture insurance cover and if possible, agriculture bank to cater for that sector.”

For some time now, farmers have requested for an agricultural bank and insurance for their crops and livestock cover against climate change effects such as droughts and floods as well as plant and livestock diseases.

They have also been complaining that the above are to blame for lack of trust from financial institutions to secure loans.

Expressing the need for the bank for agriculture, the president of Potato Farmers’ Cooperatives in Rwanda (FECOPPORWA), Vincent Havugimana, told Sunday Times that: “Banks do not trust us. They also want us to repay loans on a monthly basis which is a challenge because farmers harvest per season.”

“We want an agriculture bank and we hope that it will benefit farmers because they could have shares in it and it would offer them timely and affordable loans,” he said, suggesting that the government could set up a guarantee fund to facilitate their access to loans.

He noted that it was difficult for smallholder farmers to afford potato seeds as a kilogramme is priced at about Rwf600. According to information from the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), about two tonnes of Irish potato seeds are needed per hectare.

“The agriculture bank can also help seed multipliers to easily get money to invest, which can increase the availability of improved seeds to farmers,” Havugimana added.

The Chairman of Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, said they can increase exports revenues through farming, but added that the current agriculture needs technology and investments.

He noted that among the challenges facing youth in agri-business, is reluctance of banks and financial institutions to invest in primary farming (crops and livestock), and lack of enough financial capital to run agribusiness.

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